Congenital human cytomegalovirus infections are the major infectious cause of birth defects in the United States. How this virus crosses the placenta and causes fetal disease is poorly understood. Guinea pig cytomegalovirus (GPCMV) is a related virus that provides an important model for studying cytomegaloviral congenital transmission and pathogenesis. In order to facilitate genetic analysis of GPCMV, the 232 kb GPCMV genome was cloned as an infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). The BAC vector sequences were flanked by LoxP sites to allow efficient excision using Cre recombinase. All initial clones contained spontaneous deletions of viral sequences and reconstituted mutant viruses with impaired growth kinetics in vitro. The deletions in one BAC were repaired using Escherichia coli genetics. The resulting repaired BAC reconstituted a virus with in vitro replication kinetics identical to the wild type parental virus; moreover, its genome was indistinguishable from that of the wild type parental virus by restriction pattern analysis using multiple restriction enzymes. These results suggest that the repaired BAC is an authentic representation of the complete GPCMV genome. It should provide a valuable tool for evaluating the impact of genetic modifications on the safety and efficacy of live attenuated vaccines and for identifying genes important for congenital transmission and fetal disease.
- Congenital infection